Friday, May 15, 2020

electronic glitch

I had my first Zoom meeting for work (library committee) yesterday. It did not go well. Video was fine, though figuring out how to tile the images on my little tablet screen (where it works quite differently than on a full-sized screen) was difficult. But the audio was terrible. About a quarter of the time, in bursts, it worked fine, but the rest of the time it stuttered so badly I could not make out what was being said. Probably a combination of wifi problems (our internet connection tends to wilt in the heat) and my underpowered Galaxy tablet.

The meeting overlapped with Claire Chase's marathon webcast recital of new music for flute, but that's OK, since the first hour of it filled up my appetite for that sort of music anyway. And I missed a chunk of it when the signal froze. But the fact that I was willing to watch that much of it, and was captivated by the performance, was a good sign in itself, as this is the first concert, as opposed to a recording of a specific piece, that I've watched online.

I was attracted to the first hour by the opening piece, Steve Reich's Vermont Counterpoint for 1 live flute and 10 recorded ones (which the performer is supposed to record beforehand). It's a typical chunk of cascading minimalism, and I already knew I liked it. Chase kept switching among different size flutes, which I don't recall the performer doing when I once heard this work live, so perhaps it's up to the performer which line is live and which are recorded.

The other two were works that Chase commissioned in 2013 as the beginning of a long sequence of commissions which the marathon was chiefly designed to celebrate.

I liked Pessoa by Marcos Balter, which similarly is for 1 live and 5 recorded, only these are all bass flutes. The swirling lines of the spooky, cavernous sounds made for an eerie and arresting effect. Luciform for (regular) flute and electronics by Mario Diaz de Leon was spikier. The flute played jagged phrases or soothing lines over wavering or fluctuating electronic chords. Sometimes the electronics turned jagged and drowned out the flute. Occasionally I looked around wondering if a cell phone was ringing.

A brief premiere piece at the end, by someone whose name I didn't get due to the signal freeze, consisted of Chase reciting a Gertrude-Stein-like rhythmic poem interspersed with breathing its words into her flute mouthpiece.

If the recording is online, it's not on the webcast site, but you can find Chase playing all three of the main works on YouTube.

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